The television networks’ decision to call the election for President Barack Obama shortly after 11:20 p.m. — before all the votes had been tallied — provided a strong sense of déjà vu for many politicos.
Republican political strategist Karl Rove took the networks to task almost immediately after Fox News, CNN, NBC, and other network stations declared Obama the victor over Mitt Romney — with vote tallies in Florida and Ohio so close they are likely to trigger recounts that could turn the results to the Republican candidate’s favor.
Twelve years ago, television networks made a premature decision to falsely declare Al Gore the winner in the race against George Bush.
NBC had been first to declare Gore the winner in Florida — won at 7:50 p.m. EST. The others quickly followed suit, basing their information largely on polling data provided by Voter News Service, a consortium created by The Associated Press, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, and NBC. They later reversed course — some declaring the vote too close to call, but some falsely declaring George W. Bush the winner.
Early the next day, it was clear that the close Florida count would be contested. It would ultimately take nearly another month for recounts to show that George Bush had won Florida — by a mere 537 votes — and for the Supreme Court to confirm the count, formally giving him the White House.
The day after Election Day, network representatives tried to explain how and why they jumped the gun on the Florida election results. Some simply acknowledge d the mistake.
"I'm not sure television's had as bad a night as this," Tom Rosensteil, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, said on CNN.
NBC's Tom Brokaw, in an Associated Press report: "We don't just have egg on our face, we have an omelet."
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